If I’ve learned one thing from workshops, conferences, and author panels, it’s that there is no one right “process” for writing a great book.
Sophie Jordan, who I met at the Houston Writers Guild conference in 2012 and have had the pleasure of getting to know better at the West Houston RWA chapter meetings, uses an AlphaSmart for drafting. Considering the wild success of her Firelight books (young adult paranormal) and Forgotten Princesses series (historical romance), among others, this method is definitely one right way. There’s much to recommend it: the device is cheap, runs on batteries, easily converts to a document for editing on your computer, and it doesn’t burn up your lap while you’re writing at your daughter’s dance class. Why does it work so well for first drafts? It only displays 3 lines of text at a time–thus effectively silencing the editor in your mind.
Of course, if you’ve spent more than thirty seconds around writers lately, you’ll know that Scrivener is the right way to go. It’s like the Crossfit of the writing world. If a comprehensive set of writing tools wrapped up in one package is your cup of tea, it might be the right process for you. You can storyboard, track timelines, attach notes and images, and compile into e-book formats. It’s a word processor plus a project management system.
Personally, I prefer to write in a Word document formatted to my unique specifications, using styles and headers so I can easily navigate between chapters and scenes. When I get “stuck” however, which usually means I’ve lost track of what I’m excited about in a particular scene, it’s time to break out old faithful: pen and paper. It’s never failed to get me back in the groove. For my upcoming nonfiction release, I actually wrote all of my first draft by hand because it helped me get in the right frame of mind. If I tried that for my sci-fi series, I’d lose my mind–or worse, my only copy of the draft!
What method have you found works best for you? What didn’t work for you, and why?